Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Many of Kant's commentators and critics interpret his moral philosophy solely in terms of the cognitive dimension of his categorical imperative. Such a predominant manner of reading Kant gives rise to the criticism that his moral philosophy is too far removed from the actual way in which human beings orient themselves as moral persons in the world. In response to this general tendency in Kant interpretation, my dissertation proposes to offer an experiential approach to Kant's ethics. By the expression experiential I mean an approach to Kant's thinking that attends to the living sense in which we experience the phenomena and realities that his moral philosophy presents. In this dissertation I consider three common criticisms of Kant's moral philosophy (dogmatism, formalism and rigorism), and I show how an experiential approach to Kant's ethics can help us to respond to these three charges. In chapter one I explain the central arguments that Kant's foundational works in moral philosophy proposed, and I outline the three criticisms of Kant's ethics. In chapters two and three I present my experiential approach to Kant's practical philosophy by exploring the experiential character of happiness [Glückseligkeit], moral feeling [moralisches Gefühl] and the ethical duties that Kant derives in his doctrine of virtue [Tugendlehre]. In the fourth chapter I show how my experiential approach to Kant can help us to address these three criticisms that are commonly leveled against his ethics, and in the fifth and final chapter I consider how this experiential approach can be fruitfully applied. For instance, I show how an experiential approach to Kant can help

instructors to better introduce Kant to first time Kant readers, and I demonstrate how an experiential approach to Kant allows us to bring Kant's insights into an interesting and revealing conversation with Emmanuel Levinas. With respect to this latter conversation, I show how a critical comparison between these two thinkers can lead us to investigate the rather intriguing notion of an elevated form of happiness.

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Creative Commons License
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